The Michigan Tech Huskies (19-9-3, 17-4-3 (2-5) Pairwise) find themselves out of the CCHA regular season championship as they managed only 4 of 6 points against the Ferris State Bulldogs (10-21-1, 7-19-1 (3-2) Pairwise) in what I could only describe as a sorry weekend performance. They end their season against the league champion Minnesota State Mavericks (29-5-0, 27-5-0 (2-0) Pairwise) at home.
The Mavericks are the best team in hockey in my opinion. They might be second behind the Michigan Wolverines in the pairwise, but if they two were to play each other I would put money on the Mavericks every time. Since their last meeting, the Mavericks have gone 15-1 with one win coming in overtime and the only loss being an upset by Northern Michigan. The Mavericks are the real deal and as a result the Huskies will have their work cut out for them.
Going into the weekend, their top players are:
The Mavericks are just an insane team top to bottom. I stopped listing players at 20 points which stops at defenseman Akrito Hirose who is at 0.71 points per game at 8th on the team. Nathan Smith will also be back in the States after traveling to the Olympics. Dryden McKay has been hot as ever and I’m sure we’ll see him in net this weekend. Otherwise, there isn’t much to say regarding this team. They are very good and their stats (other than special teams) are superior to Tech in every way. Finally, there was only one game in InStat for the Maverick’s last series against the Beavers so here is the shot plot for game two.
Looking at the Huskies, their whole weekend was a disappointment in my eyes. They continued their play from the second game against Bowling Green which saw their first loss of 2022. We also saw a flash back to how the Huskies played St. Thomas. Tech once again played down to an opponent that had no business making either game competitive. This isn’t a dig at Ferris either, the Bulldogs are much better than last year and are continually improving which is great for the program and the CCHA. However, this is supposed to be a Tech team whose end goal is a National Championship as even said by head coach Joe Shawhan. When the head coach gives that answer to what the goal of the program is, the level of scrutiny goes up and now the comparisons are with teams on the same level like Minnesota State & Western Michigan.
The reason I brought up the Broncos and the Mavericks is that they also played Ferris State this season. Their collective record against the Bulldogs is 5-1, with the Mavericks dropping a game but otherwise scoring 5+ goals every other game. The Huskies on the hand were only able to put up two goals in regulation in game one as shown in our InStat plot:
Tech did have some quality shots on net but there is a reduction in how far the shots are away from the “Hard Ice”.
Game two was a whole different story with five goals scored in just the first period alone. InStat shows that the Huskies also have a frustrating time taking high quality shots .
Additionally, comparing the goals between teams the Huskies’ goals are all further away. Adding insult to injury, there were high number of shots taken from around the blue line. This does not bode well for a Huskies team that does a poor job screening the opposing goalie. The last point I would like to make is the drastic differences in the roster. Here are the point leaders for the Huskies following the same 20 point or 0.70 pt/gm cut off.
The Tech roster has some similarities but is only five players. The Mavericks also have the equivalent of two Halonens and three Blisses. This just goes to show how outmatched Tech is on an individual basis. However, where the Huskies make up a ton of ground is via their systems and should be able to hold the Mavericks in check most of the weekend.
Keys to the Game
- 120 minutes. The Huskies played a full 20 mins last weekend which was the third period of game two which saw a major comeback. If they are able to carry that momentum through all six periods this weekend they should have a chance to take a win or two.
- Stay out of the box. This has been a problem lately the Huskies need to keep their heads and not take dumb penalties. The refs have been very hit or miss the past few weekends, but the Huskies are still able to make meaningful strides in this department.
- Crash. The. Net. Under no circumstances should the Huskies be taking shots from the blue line without screening the goaltender like they did in game two. They need to crash the net and take quality shots.
The Huskies are the preverbal underdogs this weekend and it all depends on what team decides to show up. If it was the Huskies of the first five periods last weekend, they have no chance this weekend. If it’s the Huskies that scored 3 goals in third, they might be able to pull off a split or even more. They will need to prove to us who decides to show up. Mankato wins 2-1, Mankato wins 3-1.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
InStat plots created by Zach Aufdemberge
How to Watch
Tuesday’s games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Friday’s game is at 7:07 EST with Saturday’s game being 6:07 EST
*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in CCHA buildings this season so don’t be afraid to sign up for a month or the year. Flo Sports now has apps for iOS, Android (with Chromecast support), Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.